I would like to know if the following is a Buddha quote or not:“The root of suffering is attachment.”


This precise wording wasn’t familiar to me, and I’d assumed that it was an interpretation of Buddhist teaching rather than something the Buddha said himself, but there is a saying from the Pali canon, upadhi dukkhassa mūlanti, which means “Attachment is the root of suffering.” So this is a genuine canonical quote.

You’ll find it in this sutta, but translated by Thanissaro as “Acquisition is the root of stress.” His translations are rather idiosyncratic, and he regularly renders “dukkha” (pain, suffering, unsatisfactoriness) as “stress.”

In this translation of the same sutta it’s “acquisition is the root of suffering.”

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s translation (not available online, but in The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, page 868) has “attachment is the root of suffering,” although he sometimes has “acquisition” in place of “attachment,” in various repetitions of the phrase.

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My Pali dictionary gives upadhi as “clinging to rebirth (as impeding spiritual progress), attachment (almost syn. with kilesa or taṇhā…).”

So attachment is the root of suffering” is a perfectly fine translation.

All the best,Bodhipaksa

Posted on March 11, 2013April 8, 2015Author BodhipaksaCategories Verified Buddha Quotes

12 thoughts on ““The root of suffering is attachment.””

James says:
May 9, 2017 at 11:31 pm

When you say attachment do you mean like in a realtionship between husband and wife?

Bodhipaksa says:

Not really. The Buddha praised couples who lived together harmoniously and lovingly. The root attachment we have is to ourselves, and this exhibits as clinging, aversion, and refusal to accept reality. This can obviously happen in a marriage, as it can in any relationship, but it’s not the relationship itself that’s the primary problem — it’s whether we’re able to let go of our selfishness and relate to the other person empathetically, kindly, and with wisdom. A marriage, in fact, is a wonderful opportunity to practice these things.

Subhashis Das says:

Bodhipaska, I will differ with you as Tathagat when it comes to attachment he means every attachment even if it is marriage. In Hindu darshan such attachment is Maya but in Dhammapada the Sakyamuni states “All forms of existence are unreal (an-atta)…”. Therefore marriage attachments too are unreal as it too under the realm of “Maya (in Hindu darshan) “anatta (in Buddhsim).”

In the canto XIV “Affection” of the Dhammapada the Sakyamuni mentions, ““Do not become attached to what is pleasing or to what is displeasing”…many bhikshus have interpreted attachments to even married couples.

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Patrick says:

I always thought the translation of the four noble truths said ” all life is suffering because of desire”? I may of course have the ‘life’ bit wrong as perhaps it was ‘all beings’. Of course you mention the attachment quote does appear in other texts. Anyway, what is the difference between ‘attachment’ and ‘desire’ from a Buddhist perspective?

I’m remember reading way back that passion is not necessarily a bad thing in the Buddhist context yet the English definition aligns this term/word with desire. What does Buddhism have to say about passion?

I’m familiar with the concept of non-attachment as well as non-duality, I’m more into Tibetan Buddhism as well as the Tao Te Ching, but wouldn’t it be wrong to deny out ‘true nature’? By true nature I mean what we instinctively feel and, for lack of a better word, desire. If we tame our mind and become spontaneous beings then we will surly act, live and react? If out reactions are aligned with our intrinsic nature then our actions must be true whether deemed justified by relative perceptions or not.

What I’m getting at is the idea that even enlightened beings are distinct individuals and not a shadow of the same one object. Of course be an empty vessel but that vessel is unique.